‘This is his way of helping right now:’ Family advocates for Safe Exchange zones

Family raising awareness with I-95 billboard

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you take a drive down Interstate 95, you will see Joshua Grey’s smile on a billboard and a message, letting the community know they have safe options when buying and selling things online or through apps.

“The message on the billboard is use the safe exchange zones.,” explained Diane Grey. “To know if you’re going to meet there, you feel safe and comfortable, [since] you don’t know who you’re meeting."

It’s been three months since Diane Grey’s 23-year-old son, Josh, was shot and killed when the family says he was trying to sell an iPhone near Mechanicsville Turnpike and Carver Street. Josh ran to a nearby convenience store for help, where he died.

Tyshawn Andrews, 15, and Demeco Pressey-Robertson, 17, are facing several charges including murder and attempted robbery in Josh Grey’s murder.

“Out of our grief and frustration we didn’t want his story to go away, so Josh’s dad said, ‘I’m going to put a billboard up, and put his face so everyone can see it,’” said Mrs. Grey.

The billboard is hard to miss from Interstate 95, you can also see it on Sherwood Avenue. The Grey’s worked with billboard company Lamar and others to have billboards in six states. While the Grey family made the initial investment to have the billboard in Richmond, they say they are grateful to Steve Snyder with Legends Outdoor, who helped get four billboards to raise awareness.

“I am Josh’s voice now, Josh can’t speak, he can’t get in front of someone and be an advocate for safe exchange zones so that’s my role - I’m not going to let the flame go out,” said Michael Grey, Josh’s father.

Safe Exchange Zones can be found in several places in the Richmond area, Chesterfield, Petersburg, New Kent and through VCU Police.

The areas are meant for people buying or selling things online and through apps. In some cases, the safe exchange zones are clearly designated areas, with surveillance. The Grey’s want to see more people used them instead of taking a risk and meeting strangers.

“We have become advocates for it, didn’t plan this on my journey,” said Mrs. Grey. “We feel if we continue to keep the story out there and people will utilize them and save another life, we will prevent another family from traveling this road with us, and that’s our goal.”

The billboards have continued to generate a community response, through the Justice for Joshua Adam Grey facebook group.

“We all miss him terribly, but he’s with us every day,” said Mrs. Grey "He wanted to help people, and he would help anybody and this is his way of helping.”

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